The suspension of Assistant Commissioner Rajesh Karade is being seen as an attempt on the part of Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar to save his skin and also escape punitive action by High Court for “committing aggravating contempt of court” by disobeying various directions contained in the orders passed since 2009.
Nagpur: In a development that can be assumed as an attempt to save his skin and escape the stringent action by Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court, the Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar on Wednesday suspended the Ward Officer of Dharampeth Zone Rajesh Karade holding him responsible for encroachment in the form of a permanent pandal right on the road near Meetha Neem Dargah situated adjacent to Vidhan Bhavan. The Ward Officer of Dharampeth Zone Rajesh Karade, who is also Assistant Commissioner, had turned a blind eye towards warnings by Sitabuldi cops and office of DCP Zone-2 over erection of the permanent pandal near the religious place.
A Division Bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice V M Deshpande had taken a serious note of inaction by Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar and Assistant Commissioner (Ward Officer) of Dharampeth Zone Rajesh Karade in taking steps to remove the permanent pandal near Meetha Neem despite prompt reminders from Sitabuldi Police and DCP Zone-II office. The Court had observed that prima-facie both officers have “committed aggravating contempt of court.” The High Court also slammed the two officers for not acting on the warnings from police authorities. The cops had alerted the NMC about the erection of a permanent pandal near Meetha Neem Dargah after they received a complaint in this regard.
Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice V M Deshpande while summoning Hardikar and Karade on June 23, issued show cause notice to them asking as “to why action should not be taken against them for having committed aggravating contempt of this Court by disobeying various directions contained in the orders passed since 2009.” The officers came under fire for not implementing the orders passed by the High Court in the past by which High Court had directed authorities not to permit any temporary or permanent structures under the guise of religious function to obstruct smooth flow of traffic.
Lashing out at totally lethargic approach of the Nagpur Municipal Corporation officials, the High Court pointed out that even timely reminder from police officials failed to wake them up from deep slumber.
While hearing a petition filed by Manohar Khorgade against menace of erection of pandal, welcome gates, arches, stages or temporary structures, which cause obstruction and adversely affect the free flowing of traffic, the High Court came down heavily upon authorities for being mute spectator and tolerating encroachment on public space.
Earlier orders directing Municipal Commissioner to fix the responsibility on zonal officer was also followed only in breach.
Subsequently, acting on the court directives, the Municipal Commissioner Hardikar suspended the zonal Ward Officer Rajesh Karade on Wednesday (June 22), a day before both of them had to appear in the High Court for disobeying the earlier orders of the court.
Facing the heat of High Court warning of severe action including arrest of Commissioner of Police and Municipal Commissioner for non-compliance of its earlier orders to remove all temporary/ permanent structures including religious from public places, the concerned authorities finally acted and removed the permanent pandal near Meetha Neem Dargah near Vidhan Bhavan that was blocking traffic and creating other problems on the midnight of last Thursday (June 16) well before the court deadline.
Earlier, during hearing on the PIL, taking very serious view of the breach of specific joint undertaking given by the Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar and Commissioner of Police S P Yadav to the High Court in the PIL filed by Manohar B Khorgade, a retired MLA Hostel employee and others through Adv Firdos Mirza, seeking removal of all encroachments under the guise of religion, the Division Bench of Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice VM Deshpande had directed the concerned authorities to remove the ‘pandal’ and other structures from the public road near the Museum by June 17 morning and to remain present before the court at 10.30 am. The Justices, in harsh words, had denounced the approach of authorities, particularly the Commissioner of Police and Municipal Commissioner, in not removing illegal religious structures from the public places. The court said that it may be constrained to order their arrest for non-compliance its orders.